Presented By: Priya Hays, M.S., Ph.D. Department of English, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA USA Abstract: Numerous studies exist that reveal genomic variation in prostrate
Priya Hays, M.S., Ph.D.
Department of English, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA USA
Numerous studies exist that reveal genomic variation in prostrate cancer according to racial categories. For example one study revealed an association of chromosome 8q variants with prostate cancer risk in Caucasian and Hispanic men (Beuten et al., 2009) while another demonstrated generalizability of associations from prostate cancer genome-wide association studies in multiple populations (Waters 2009). In addition, a number of genes with alleles that differ in frequency between black and white men have been proposed as a genetic cause or contributor to the increased prostate cancer risk in black men.
These studies in genetic variation associated with cancer occurrence and risk may absolve the explanation of the social determinants for health and mark a return to genetic determinism, particularly regarding the association of cancer risk with race. However, in their article on “Explaining racial differences in prostate cancer in the United States: sociology or biology”, Freedland and Isaacs offer that multiple reasons have been postulated to explain these differences in cancer risk including access to care, attitudes about care, socioeconomic and education differences, differences in type and aggressiveness of treatment, and dietary differences (Freedland and Isaacs 2005).
In this paper I address the implications of direct to consumer genetic testing and the personalized medicine industry that potentially utilize the results of these studies to inform consumers of genetic risk or predisposition to cancer. I argue that direct to consumer testing and pharmacogenomic industry, through the advertisement of their diagnostic tests and promise of cure through individualized therapy, unwittingly discount the sociological contexts of health in favor of an individual consumerist ethic that may put global health at risk.
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